The Benefits of Corporate Wellness Programs

What If?

What if we had medical care that was focused on keeping us well instead of managing our disease? What if every employer hired a full time Naturopathic Doctor to help keep their employees well and productive, at no cost to the employees?

We rank 15th out of 25 industrialized nations in health care according to the World Health Organization. This disturbing dichotomy exists, despite the fact that we spend more than any other nation for health care, because our medical system is focused on disease management.

The leading causes of death; cardiovascular, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity, are all preventable. 75% of all medical expenditures are spent on chronic disease. So why don’t we spend more on prevention instead of waiting until we have one of the top killers and spend our medial dollars on disease management?

Congress just approved 720 billion dollars over the next 10 years for Medicare prescription benefits. Medicare only pays for disease management; they don’t pay unless you have something wrong with you. If we spent a portion of the 720 billion dollars on prevention, we could reduce our need for pharmaceutical management of our disease. More importantly, we would live longer and with a higher quality of life.

Half of TV news media advertising is from pharmaceutical ads. In 1999 when the pharmaceutical industry went to the FDA to get permission to advertise directly to the consumer, the average monthly prescription cost was $30. Today the average price, for the exact same prescription, is $140. While some drugs are absolutely essential, most are not. Make no mistake, all have side effects.

We are in a medical care crisis. According to a recent survey, only 21% of all Medical school graduates are planning on going into general practice. Most graduates are going into specialties and super specialties to be able to earn a living. This is a direct result of the fact that most MD’s that are presently in general practice are not making a living. Between the difficulties of getting paid by insurance companies, high overhead and high malpractice insurance, many general practice MD’s must see 25 -30 patients per day to make ends meet. Why do you think we only get a 10 minute visit? As a result, many MD’s are no longer taking any insurance. They start by dropping Medicare and then eventually move to cash only practices. So if the existing MD’s are going to cash only practices, and no one is going into general practice when they graduate from medical school, who is going to take care of us? The pipe line is drying up.

Naturopathic Doctors (ND’s) are the only licensed physicians trained in proactive, preventative medicine. They attend a four year medical school similar to your MD. They diverge from the traditional MD programs in two main areas.

1. ND’s are philosophically trained to treat the cause not just the symptom. Consequently, they are required to take approximately 125 additional hours of training in physiology so they can figure out what is causing a symptom.
2. Whereas ND’s are trained to prescribe pharmaceuticals, and can in the states they are licensed, their main therapeutics are in nutrition, botanical medicine, supplements, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, Chinese medicine and physical medicine.

The biggest hurdles to utilization of Naturopathic care are twofold.

1. Lack of insurance coverage so patients have to pay out of pocket for their services. Those insurance companies that do pay for Naturopathic medicine typically pay so poorly, the doctor can’t afford to be on their panels.
2. Lack of awareness as to what Naturopathic Medicine is.

Given the double digit increases in skyrocketing insurance premiums that corporations have to pay for their employee medical insurance, it would be to their advantage to utilize this type of preventive medicine. If the employer paid for a Naturopathic doctor who is trained in preventive medicine to see their employees at no cost to the employee, the benefits to the employer would be:

    Decreased absenteeism
    Increased Productivity
    Decreased workers compensation
    Decreased utilization of third party provided insurance resulting in lower premiums.
    Better retention and recruitment of employees

The benefit to the employee would be:

    Not having to leave work to see the doctor
    Decreased co-pays for doctor visits
    Learning how to prevent life shortening diseases
    Decreased need for pharmaceutical medications with all their side effects and costs
    Improved quality of life

Optimally, the employer would hire a Naturopathic physician full time and have them set up on site. The doctor would give weekly wellness lectures to teach employees how to keep from proceeding down the degenerative path to chronic disease. Those that wanted to see the doctor would make an appointment. Visits would cover acute care such as colds, flu’s, headaches etc. as well as true preventative health care to help with blood pressure, weight management, exercise, diet, diabetes, and cholesterol (to name a few).

The employer would track absenteeism, productivity, workers comp. claims, and medical insurance utilization through their companies group number. Most employers are tracking these variables already. The ideal company for a pilot project like this would have 50-200 employees, but small employers could work together to hire a roving doctor as well. The cost to the employer would be the salary of the doctor and some dedicated space for an office and exam room, computer, and confidential filing system. All personal medical information would be confidential.

There are many studies that show financial returns of between 2 – 7 dollars for every dollar spent on wellness programs. These are for programs that vary from simple fitness to a nurse on site. This program takes wellness one step further with an actual doctor on site.

The answer to what if would be; healthier happier employees that required less time off, less medical expenses, were more productive at work and were more inclined to continue working for their employer because of these benefits.

If you know of an employer interested in testing this pilot project please have them call me.